AFL-CIO Coalition Seeks to Clip Hair Testing

April 26, 2017

By David Cullen

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Photo: FMCSA
Photo: FMCSA

A coalition of 32 AFL-CIO member unions representing transportation workers is urging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to deny a petition by several trucking companies to use hair specimens in lieu of federally mandated urine in pre-employment drug tests.

The Transportation Trades Department of AFL-CIO contends that the safety agency should “follow established protocol and put science first” by denying the petition filed back in October by  Maverick Transportation, Knight Transportation, J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Dupré Logistics, all members of the Alliance for Driver Safety & Security, along with Schneider National and Werner Enterprises. 

In comments filed on April 25, TTD pushed back against the petition, citing concerns about the reliability, accuracy and fairness of hair testing. The union coalition stated that studies show that hair testing can produce false results and may have an inherent racial bias. Darker and more porous hair retains some drugs at greater rates than lighter hair, said TTD, adding that “hair specimens can test positive for drugs drivers never ingested.”

“No one in America should be denied employment because the trucking industry wants to rely on an unsound testing method as a way to cut drug-testing costs,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “Until hair testing is proven to be a reliable and fair way of testing for drug use and federal standards are in place, subjecting transportation workers to hair-testing should not be up for serious consideration.” 

TTD argues that, unlike urine tests, which it said are the most accurate and reliable method for pre-employment drug testing, hair testing lacks federal oversight. Therefore, relying on hair testing as a condition of employment “could unfairly hinder a driver’s chance to earn a livelihood and sets a threatening precedent that could affect millions of workers in the transportation sector and across the economy.”

The union coalition noted that language in the FAST Act highway bill of 2015 directs the Department of Health and Human Services to issue scientific and technical guidelines on hair testing and permits bus and truck companies to perform pre-employment hair tests only after HHS guidelines are issued. “This reflects the standard that the Department of Transportation has adhered to since 1991, when Congress mandated that DOT follow HHS guidelines in creating federal drug test standards,” TTD said. 

“By petitioning FMCSA with the same request Congress ultimately denied, these trucking companies are circumventing a long-established process that rightfully allows scientists, not employers or politicians, to determine which testing methods and procedures are approved and implemented,” Wytkind said. “Deviating from that process undermines scientific standards and sets a dangerous precedent that could have far-reaching consequences.”

In addition, TTD pointed out that several prominent civil rights groups, including the NAACP, ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance, have submitted comments that also urge FMCSA to deny the petition, “citing the racial biases and false results associated with hair testing.”

TTD also noted that influential Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Transportation Committee, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) have also called on FMCSA to deny the petition. In a Feb. 21 letter to the agency, the two Capitol Hill stalwarts call the implementation of hair testing “premature” and a contradiction of Congressional intent.

On the other hand, hair testing is still drawing firm support from key trucking industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association, and the aforementioned Alliance for Driver Safety & Security. The latter group has stated that it supports hair testing over urinalysis because it is “more effective at identifying lifestyle drug users.”


  1. 1. John McNeilly [ April 27, 2017 @ 05:12AM ]

    Well there it is - organized labor is not on the side of safety. Everything they tout is wrong. We often we hair test alongside in addition to urine. Guess what? You get a three month window in a potential employee's truthfulness, not a week at best. They are against it because IT WORKS. They are taking a stand to try and protect their members from being tested and having to defend the drug use after the fact. It's better for them to fight the tests rather than the results. In doing so, they are allowing thousands and thousands of workers to drive under the influence, putting you and me at risk.
    This morning on the way in to work, it was announced that in Michigan, for the first time, there are now more dead post-accident drivers with illegal substances in their system than alcohol. That's a sobering thought, no pun intended. Drug use is very clearly a problem with motorists, and organized labor is helping make the problem worse by making compromised drivers harder to catch. AFL-CIO, we've got your number. This is yet another reason why I will never support you.

  2. 2. Jackson [ April 27, 2017 @ 08:55AM ]

    I can attest to the accuracy of the hair follicle drug test. I had a urine test which was positive for THC but my hair test was negative and because of the legal system of HHS, SAMHSA and FMCSA they ( the employer ) will not accept the total truth. I'm looking forward to having my case heard in the judicial county courthouse and hopefully a win so that I can have my career back. This is and would be a precence case for an attorney.

  3. 3. Jackson [ April 27, 2017 @ 09:06AM ]

    I want to help the industry and the blue collar working people. It's actually a shame on how the industry, old laws and lack of allowed science has and is affecting the industry in a wrong way. Science, this science has proven to be correct and needs to be in place at least as a confirmation to urine tested positive on a random drug test.


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